How to Become a UX Researcher in 7 Steps
User experience (UX) is very important for the development of software applications and websites. Companies hire UX researchers to identify different design, functionality, and usability elements preferred by customers. These elements are then integrated into the product or service development process.
Doing so ensures that everything a company develops is customer-centric. Choosing to become a UX researcher is becoming a common choice in the tech industry. Those who are looking to pursue a career in UX research should know that the average annual salary of a UX researcher is around $75,000.
Those who want to become UX researchers must learn certain hard and soft skills to be successful. In this article, we’ll focus on how to become a UX researcher. We’ll start off with the value and importance of UX research, and then we’ll dive deep into those skills and qualifications you need to turn your dream into a reality.
Why Become a UX Researcher?
A UX research career is valued in any industry as it helps companies increase customer satisfaction. To understand the impact a UX research team has on user satisfaction, one must first focus on the Introduction of UX research. User research is basically the process of carrying out both or either qualitative and quantitative research for insights.
These research findings can be gained for different types UX research methods like usability testing and user behavior data analysis. UX researchers, after gaining these insights, give them to the UX designer. These insights are an integral part of the UX design process and are incorporated into the services.
“If you’re not talking to the right people, it’s really hard to make the right decisions.”
Costumes today have more options for anything and everything they want then than they ever before. Businesses, due to so many alternatives, now have only a limited number of factors that can be used to differentiate themselves. Customer experience is one such factor. Companies can differentiate themselves through UX research. It helps them understand what elements customers prefer, includes them in the services, and ensures satisfaction.
Keeping this in mind, it can be said that the demand for UX researchers is on the rise. A recent survey has highlighted that 68% of UX leaders expect to hire professionals in 2023.
Key Skills and Qualifications of a UX Researcher
Essential Skills for a UX Research
Someone working as a UX researcher needs to have both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are needed to perform essential tasks of UX research projects. These tasks may include gaining insights from answers to the research questions. Whereas soft skills have more to do with the communication a UX researcher is involved in. Some of the most essential skills you need to become a UX researcher include:
- Research Skills - To become a UX researcher, you need to be able to perform both quantitative and qualitative research. Being able to conduct research means that you can design studies, analyze data, and draw conclusions from them. Great research skills help professionals understand human behavior and incorporate it into their designs.
- Problem-Solving - The UX research plan is largely about solving problems customers face. The purpose of UX research tools is to study human-computer interaction and identify problems the users face. Once they have understood what this problem is, they will brainstorm possible solutions and create actionable steps for the designer.
- User Testing - The UX research role is centered on figuring out what customers want and implement in the service being offered. For this reason, a UX researcher is often required to test solutions through testing sessions. These sessions help gain valuable feedback about human behavior and may be facilitated or unfacilitated.
- Wireframing - Wireframes help show the potential functionality of an application or a website. Since UX researchers are often the most credible source of customer feedback, they are tasked with creating wireframes. They help their UX designers understand how the developing application or service should function.
- Communication Skills - Often overlooked, the ability to communicate effectively is essential to a UX research career. User experience researchers need to be active listeners so they can understand the feedback given by the customers. In addition, they must also have the ability to communicate these insights to other team members.
- Time Management - Some of the methods like usability testing and user observation that are used in UX research are often time-consuming. In addition, the deadline for product or service updates is tight. This means that UX researchers must have the ability to timely pursue their research efforts and deliver valuable insights.
- A/B Testing - Designing a user experience that wins over the customer is a time-consuming process and one that requires testing of different design concepts. To do this, a UX researcher must be able to conduct A/B testing to determine which design elements help ensure customer satisfaction.
- Critical Thinking - UX researchers often have to determine the trade-off between resources and customer requirements. In some cases, an organization will not have enough to cater to all the requirements customers have. Here, UX researchers need to critically analyze their data and determine the priority of customer requirements.
Educational Background and Degrees
When looking at the educational background that’s needed to become a UX designer, there aren’t really one size fits all approaches here. Most UX research positions require candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree. However, this academic qualification doesn’t have to be in a UX-related field.
In fact, having a degree in psychology, social sciences, or even communication can be beneficial to your UX career. All these degrees are either directly or indirectly related to human behavior one way or another, and human behavior is a critical part of UX research and design. Some other college majors to consider if you're interested in UX research include:
- Computer science.
- Information systems.
- Human-computer interaction.
In reality, the academic background that can help you become a successful UX researcher is quite vast. However, if you don’t have a background in a relevant field, there’s no need to panic. There are still ways you can become a successful UX researcher.
Steps to Becoming a UX Researcher
“Never go into user research to prove a point, and never create goals that seek to justify a position or reinforce a perspective.”
UX research is an appealing field to my professionals. Luckily, there is a series that you can follow to set yourself up for a career in UX research. When pursuing a career in UX, you need to understand that self-taught professionals are just as good as those who’ve transitioned from other fields. To become a successful UX researcher, you must:
1. Understand the Field
The world of user experience is no doubt a complex landscape to navigate. Especially when it comes to user research. As a UX researcher, you need to understand that the entire process is about keeping your own opinions out and catering to user needs. The UX research process involves complex quantitative data that professionals have to derive sense from.
This is done by using tools like SPSS statistics and Google Analytics. In addition to this, you must also understand that your work as a UX researcher also involves other professionals like UX designers and product managers. Your work as a UX researcher greatly contributes to the services the organization develops and is the fundamental element of customer satisfaction.
2. Gain Knowledge and Education
After you’ve learned what the UX industry is all about, the next step is to equip yourself with knowledge and education. Most people often think that UX research deliverables are just about listening to what the customers have to say. Thoughts like this lead them to believe that no education is needed to become a UX designer. However, this is something that is light years away from the truth.
There is no specific degree for becoming a UX researcher. But, having an academic background in phycology, statistics, computer sciences, and other related disciplines and taking a UX research course can help. So, you should take advantage of the online resources available. Learn from online courses, read articles, watch YouTube videos, and equip yourself with the knowledge and education needed to become a UX researcher.
3. Develop Essential Skills
Once you’ve gained the necessary education and knowledge about research tactics, customer preference, and data analytics, the next step in the process is to use that knowledge to develop the essential skills needed to become a UX researcher. Some of the most essential skills needed to become a UX researcher include problem-solving, critical thinking, wireframing, and communication. These can be learned from case studies and examples.
Both problem-solving and critical-thinking skills can be developed with a little effort. All you need to do is identify the problems, gain and analyze information, and then brainstorm and test solutions. In addition, practicing different wireframing techniques and using tools like Figma and Adobe XD are great ways to develop wireframing skills. Lastly, things like taking notes while someone speaks and speaking in a clear and concise manner can help you develop communication skills.
4. Gain Practical Experience
After you’ve developed essential skills, the next step on your way to becoming a UX researcher is to gain experience. When you gain hands-on experience, you’re able to put your user surveys, usability tests, and strong communication skills to the test.
You research the target audience for a particular project, use your skills to solve problems, and determine if UX research is the right career path for you. As a newbie, some of the many ways you can gain practical UX research experience include:
- Volunteering for small businesses or profit organizations.
- Pursuing personal UX research projects.
- Participating in UX research events and hackathons.
- Getting an internship at a reputable organization.
Gaining practical experience will not help you test your skills, it'll help you determine your drawback and areas of improvement, will add to your credibility as a UX researcher, and will help you develop a killer UX research portfolio.
5. Network and Learn from Peers
Networking, similar to any other industry, is highly important in UX research. You see, when you learn about something all on your own, what you learn is bound to be tailored by your own perception.
This can oftentimes lead to a narrow-minded view and can limit one’s understanding. However, this can be avoided by engaging and collaborating with fellow UX researchers. Some of the many ways to network as a UX professional include:
1. Attending industry events and meeting other researchers
Getting to know what others in the industry are doing will help you learn about new trends and techniques.
2. Connecting with UX professionals on social media
Social media is a great way to not only showcase your expertise but to connect with like-minded professionals from all over the world.
3. Joining online UX communities
There are tons of UX research communities on the internet. Joining and being an active member of them can help you better understand target user behaviors and improve your design thinking process.
4. Reaching out to industry experts
This can help you develop valuable connections with those in leading UX positions. You can share your work, learn from their feedback, and improve your research methods.
As mentioned, networking is highly important in UX research. Connecting with other professionals will allow you to enhance your knowledge of a user interface, and you’ll be able to improve on research methods like user interviews. In addition, it creates opportunities you can leverage to propel your UX career.
6. Refine and Expand Your Portfolio
When you begin to look for a career in the UX research industry, you’ll quickly learn the importance of a portfolio. It’s what’ll help you get your foot in the door. A portfolio will show all the research strategies you’ve worked with and the problem you’ve solved.
It helps you build a reputable image in the industry and allows you to stay updated with industry trends. Your portfolio will speak for itself and will help convince hiring managers that you’re the UX researcher they need. When creating a portfolio, remember to:
- Start by layout your goals - Before you create the portfolio, you need to set goals. Ask yourself if you are doing it to build credibility or are doing it to secure a job. Setting goals will help you determine the type of content that should be included in your portfolio.
- Have a narrative - Your UX research portfolio should be truly yours. While it’s very important to showcase your work as a UX professional, it’s equally important to have a narrative. Your portfolio should tell your story, your pitfalls, and your achievements.
- Use visuals - As a UX researcher, your portfolio will mostly be text and data-based. However, this doesn’t mean that the portfolio has to be boring. You can spice things up by adding visuals like graphs, charts, and tables.
- Collect feedback - Finding out what others in the industry think of work is very important. It can help you determine skills that you can scale upon and ones that need a little more time and effort.
Creating a portfolio is essential for UX researchers. It helps showcase their understanding of things like user experience research, research questions, and design projects. A portfolio is a valuable tool that helps you document your journey and achieve your goals.
7. Stay Updated and Continuously Learn
Last but not least is staying up to date. Customer demands are always evolving, and with the evolution comes changes to research and design requirements. Such changes also often result in new methods to answer research questions and pursue a design project.
Staying up to date with trends and change and continuously learning can help you develop a killer research strategy. This strategy can then be used to understand customer needs and wants and change service designs accordingly.
Resources and Learning Opportunities
If you’re looking to start your career in UX research, there are tons of learning opportunities and online resources you can benefit from. The most beneficial aspect of these resources is that you can access them anywhere, anytime, and most of them are free.
Some great online resources that will help you become a UX researcher include courses available on Udemy, Coursera, and Uxcel. These courses provide you with all the necessary skills and knowledge needed to excel in UX.
UX research is rapidly gaining popularity and has become a preferred career choice among many. A UX researcher uses complex techniques like usability testing to understand customer requirements. These requirements are then incorporated into the UX design process and ensure satisfaction.
Gaining an understanding of the industry, developing essential skills, having a portfolio, and networking are some of the many to start a UX research career. Signup for UX courses with Uxcel and turn your research dreams into a reality today!